Central Professors Share Their Writing Process

Julia Conant, Lifestyle Editor

You’ve heard of King Arthur’s court, but have you heard of “King Author’s Court?”

On Thursday, March 25, Central’s English department held an event titled “King Authors’ Court.” Professor Mary Collins moderated, while professors Jotham Burrello, Steven Ostrowski, Amanda Greenwell and Sarah Strong gave insight into their writing processes and shared excerpts from their work.

Over 100 members of Central’s community tuned into the Crowdcast event, participating by leaving questions and comments for the professors.

Strong, a creative writing professor, shared an excerpt from their novel, “Burning the Sea.” They explained how similes can help readers gain insight into a character through the line, “she thought if she didn’t get married, she would just come untied. Float away like a balloon from the hand of a child.”

“The simile suggests that this is a woman who is not very stable,” Strong explained. “[She’s] used to relying on the unreliable. Something as tenuous as a little kid’s grip on a balloon string, and that’s what she relies on to keep her safe.”

They then highlighted when they referred to another character as an anchor, pointing out the contrast between the airy balloon and the anchor that is meant to “hold fast.”

One audience member asked Strong if they thought it was a good idea to start writing a novel before getting a degree.

“I think that people who really want to become writers will do it whether it’s a good idea or not,” Strong answered. “There is no guarantee that by getting an MFA you’re gonna be a published author, and there’s no guarantee that if you don’t have an MFA you’re going to be a published author either.”

Professor Ostrowski shared a passage of his fiction work and told the audience of a unique and meaningful experience he had with one of his readers. He recounted that while doing a reading and signing of his short story, a young woman approached him.

The woman said the story was her favorite. He thought she meant it was her favorite from his story collection, and thanked her.

“She started walking away, and then said ‘I don’t mean my favorite story from the book, I mean my favorite story ever,’” Ostrowski shared. “And that really stayed with me, to have that impact even on one person. It just blew my mind, really.”

Professor Burrello shared the process of writing his novel, “Spindle City.” He shared an early draft of a passage, and explained how he revised it. He put more specifics into lines that were “flat as hell,” took out unnecessary details and changed the voice to fit his characters better.

Burrello explained that in order to write a good story, you need to know your characters and story well, even figuring out the details that won’t be included in the final draft.

“These folders behind me, there’s a lot of stuff in here that never made it in the book,” Burrello said. “But I had to write it to figure out what my characters were about.”

Professor Greenwell specializes in academic writing, but showed that even academic writing has a lot of craft and thought put into it.

“Academic writing can be fun,” Greenwell said. “When you have that moment where you’ve figured out a phrase, or you figured out a word, you should celebrate that. When you celebrate a good sentence in academic writing, you’re celebrating an idea, but you’re celebrating the language you captured it in.”

If you missed this event, be on the lookout for more events from Central’s English department.